From The BBC 20 Sept. 2009
Havana is hosting the biggest open-air concert since the 1959 revolution, featuring some 15 top Latin American, Spanish and Cuban performers.
Hundreds of thousands of people – many wearing white – are attending the event in Revolution Square, Havana.
Colombian singer Juanes, who organised the “Peace without Borders” concert, has received death threats from Miami-based critics of the Cuban regime. But he has won support from 20 high-profile jailed dissidents inside Cuba.
The BBC’s Michael Voss at the concert says there is a mood of excitement, as many residents of the isolated, music-loving island have never seen anything like it before. He says people have travelled from across the island to attend. Organisers said some 500,000 people were expected. But our reporter says heat is a problem. He has seen a lot of people being carried away on stretchers.
“Together, we are going to make history,” said Puerto Rican singer Olga Tanon, as she opened the concert with the love song, Es Mentiroso Ese Hombre (That Man is a Liar). “We’ve been here since 0300 waiting for everyone, waiting for Juanes and for Olga Tanon,” Luisa Maria Canales, an 18-year-old engineering student, told the AP news agency. “I’m a little tired, but I am more excited.”
While critics have complained that Juanes is endorsing the island’s communist system, the dissidents say the concert is an opportunity for reconciliation. Juanes said the show was about peace and tolerance, not politics.”It’s a message of peace, not only for Cuba. It’s for the entire region,” he said. He added that preparations for the concert had not been easy, but “we have all got over our fears”.
Our reporter notes that the location of the free concert is highly symbolic.The headquarters of the communist party is in Revolution Square, along with a giant metal sculpture of Che Guevara’s head.The square was used by Fidel Castro to give five-hour speeches, and is also where Pope John Paul II held a historic open air mass in 1998.
Among the artists taking part on Sunday are Spain’s Miguel Bose, Olga Tanon from Puerto Rico, the Cuban performers Silvio Rodriguez and Los Van Van.